Sheffield voted to change to a committee system, now what?

Sheffield emphatically voted to change the way the council is run, here is a look at what this means and what happens next.

Monday, 10th May 2021, 6:15 pm

The result of the governance referendum was 8,9670 votes to change to a committee system and 4,8727 to stay with a strong leader and cabinet model. That works out at 64.8 percent in favour of the change.

It came just days after a dramatic council election that saw the Green Party and Liberal Democrats push the council to no overall control.

Following the results, we know there will be a change in who runs the council and the system by which it runs but exactly who that will be and what that will look like is still to be decided.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Anne Barr of the It's Our City campaign.

Broadly, the new model will have a number of committees with areas of decision-making responsibilities such as transport and development. Each committee will be made up of councillors of all parties, with the number of seats proportionate to the political make-up of the council.

All decisions will have to be considered at a meeting of a committee and not by individual councillors.

The change to a committee system will be implemented from May 2022, giving a year to iron out finer details such as how it will operate and the number of committees.

Anne Barr, co-chair of It’s Our City – the campaign group that triggered the referendum with a more than 26,000 signature petition – said the committee system should be “tailor made” to Sheffield

She said: “We are only at the start of change…The system has got to be designed, we are hoping there is going to be vision and a real political will to get the best blueprint for Sheffield we can get.

“There is no ‘one size fits all’, this can be tailor made specifically to the needs of our city and we hope this is going to be embraced.

“We issue a challenge to Sheffield Council to give us the best system possible, really go for it and make this a blueprint that other people across the country can emulate.”

Councillor Shaffaq Mohammed, leader of Sheffield Liberal Democrats, said: “We will still be stuck with this cabinet system for one more year, unfortunately, but I’ve already said to Terry [Fox, leader of Sheffield Labour] we will have to take lessons from this referendum result and start to change the way we operate. That will mean not only cabinet but also how scrutiny operates in this city going forward.

“People will look back at this referendum and say ‘why was it so important’ and I will say because the council was so stuck in its old, bad ways it had to be pushed out by the people’s referendum.”

Kate Josephs, chief executive and returning officer, said: “There are lots of details to work out but I can confidently reassure anybody who is worried that we will be working really hard together across all parties and as officers supporting political parties to make sure we come up with a really clear, ambitious plan for our city going forward.”